South Carolina, Amendment 1 and Me
The Supression of Black Gay Voices
As many of you know, South Carolina is faced with one of those dreary "marriage amendments." The organization I am affiliated with, the South Carolina Equality Coalition, has been steadily fighting this amendment on many fronts.
One front is on the editorial pages of the state's newspapers. I wrote a column about how the amendment affects me. It was not printed. Now one of the editors, a black minister, wrote a column in which he said while the amendment would clutter the state's constitution, it should be passed to send a message about the "sin of homosexuality."
I am not claiming intentional suppression of my opinion. I am just pointing out the fact that in these amendment fights, it has been so difficult for those of us who are black and gay to get our voices heard. Subsequently, these amendment fights have pitted the African-American and gay communities against each other regarding comparisons of the African-American civil rights movement and the gay civil rights movement.
Meanwhile, those who are like me will have our voices suppressed and our opinions unheard. People will pass over our lives like they are not important.
If anything, we are the inheritors, the children if you will, of the African-American and gay civil rights movements. We are the fusion of the two maligned groups.
And while the parents squabble, the children are being ignored.
But thank God I have a blog because I can post what I wrote:
My favorite childhood memories are of family picnics, holidays and days at the beach. There was bound to be a mishap during these outings, like being rained on at Lake Murray or accidentally setting our neighbor’s yard on fire during the Fourth of July. Over the years, memories of these misfortunes faded away, but the love and support of my large family did not.
As I grew into a young man, I began to wish that I could build a family of my own. But in 1990, I ran into an obstacle while I was attending college at Winthrop.
I realized I was gay. As a 19-year-old at the crest of facing the real world, this realization was an extra burden. To make matters worse, no one talked much about gay men and lesbians back then, much less about them raising families. Subsequently, it took me time (and many tears and sleepless nights) to realize that there was nothing wrong with being gay and having a family.
But apparently, my perfectly normal desire to raise a family has mixed up some people’s concept of what makes a family.
At least that is what some of my fellow South Carolinians might think.
On November 7th, our state will be deciding on a constitutional amendment that addresses the very definition of family.
As a lifelong South Carolinian and a native son of Columbia, allow me to share what the amendment means to me and to my understanding of family. Raised in a black, Christian church, the importance of family was instilled in me from the day I was born. In my life I have seen that the desire to start a family and have it protected by your community is a normal part of the human condition. No one, gay or straight, should have to apologize for feeling that way, especially my fellow gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender South Carolinians who are already members of loving families and productive communities across our state.
Unfortunately, anti-gay forces are attacking our families. Those who push this Family Discrimination Amendment preface their justifications with the caveat that they do not hate gay people.
I actually believe them.
Their attempts do not spring out of hatred but rather a misguided sense of entitlement. They feel they must dictate to South Carolinians what makes a family, that they have the patent on what constitutes a "real family" and to heck with the rest of us who do not fit their "standards."
Let me register my vehement opposition to this ignorant, prejudiced and narrow-minded ideology.
Families are not about one strict and unbending definition. A family is about creating beauty and success regardless of its makeup—from single mothers working two jobs to grandmothers raising their grandchildren. My definition of family may have changed since I was a boy, but the importance of family to me has not.
Amendment 1 does not just attack gay families, it attacks all families.
Though it may seem that the fight over this Amendment will end negatively for South Carolina’s families, I remain optimistic that its opponents have used this opportunity to talk with other South Carolinians about a more complete and realistic definition of family. I am filled with the hope that the gay community can convince fellow South Carolinians to look at us as ordinary people and leave the allotting of spaces in Heaven to our God.
After all, hope is another condition present in every human being.
And gay folks are just as human as anyone else.